Changing Planet

New Caledonia Expedition: An Army of Giant Parrotfish

A School of Bumphead Parrotfish at Astrolabe Reef in New Caledonia. (Photo by Enric Sala)

Today we dove at Astrolabe Reef, a remote coral atoll northeast of New Caledonia. So far it’s the best place we have explored.

In our dives today we’ve seen everything one hopes to see: sharks, groupers, Napoleon wrasse, bright red old sea fans, and many other gorgeous animals. But the most impressive sight – and one that we will remember for a long time – was a school of 75 bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum). They are the largest of the parrotfishes, with a maximum length of 130cm and can weigh up to 50kg! The bumphead parrotfish is a vulnerable species, and a great indicator of fishing pressure: they are one of the few species to go away when people start fishing a reef.

This is why we are so excited and happy today, because we know that Astrolabe is still a pristine reef full of large animals. This is the most precious jewel we have explored in the last three weeks.

Click here to view all New Caledonia expedition blog posts.

This expedition is led by National Geographic in collaboration with the Institute de Recherche pour le Development (IRD) of New Caledonia and the Waitt Institute.

Thanks to Pristine Seas sponsors Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.
  • ocra adolf

    ” This is why we are so excited and happy today, because we know that Astrolabe is still a pristine reef full of large animals. ”


  • Kaushal S. Pandya

    Good afternoon Mr. Sala,

    Is the bumphead parrotfish aggressive to other fishes?
    Also, have you seen a decline in reefs in the Astrolabe
    over the years or has it been growing consistently?

    Thank you,
    Kaushal S. Pandya

  • Tanyad

    I’ve seen large schools of Bumphead Parrotfish. They really are so cool. If they were human, they’d be riding Italian scooters and saying “Ciao”

  • istvan

    Places like these should be kept a secret otherwise it will be fished out in a year. Now we know where to catch the big fish, also the parrot fish is responsible for killing the reefs by eating it producing sand.

  • makoto suzuki

    非常に興味深く、早く内容を把握したい。national geographicが常に我々の興味を満たし、知識を増やしてくれることを祈ります。


    advantage of information is knowledge, but disadvantage of knowledge is 2 destroy.Had U kept this info secret, these parrotfish would live till eternity? Think?


    Thanks to Nat Geo.

  • John Sumner

    Wake up you humans, mine and your trouble is that there is TOO MANY OF US and WE SHOULD BE CULLED! Bad persons get locked up and we continue to feed and care for them! In China they shoot about 100 criminals each week which is a drop in a swelling ocean of two legged ‘ants’! A talk just given in America, suggests we should be consuming ‘plant protein’?

  • peter rogers

    we in malta we have that kind of fish but more coulorfull and in maltese it is called PAPPAGALL. BUT WE DONT FIND IN LAGR SHOALS.

  • Yanno

    @John Sumner. You are absolute right.

  • Mike

    Interesting! I hope that everyone is having a happy That.ksgicing. That goes for last year and all the other years that I’ve missed.

  • Mike

    I meant “Thanksgiving”. Please forgive me for my mistake.

  • qusai syalabi

    This truly precious, very beautiful,..

  • Abu Daud

    Must be maintained all that was there to be beautiful underwater paradise with all the ecosystem.

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